Thursday, October 08, 2009

Objectivism & Politics, Part 29

Politics of Human Nature 13: Canaille. John Adams, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, wrote that "there is a natural Aristocracy among men; the grounds of which are Virtue and Talents." There exists also a kind of natural Chandela or rabble, the grounds of which are vice and incompetence. Of course, in a society besotted with egalitarian sentiments , no one wants to admit such a thing. But it is true nonetheless. There exists a type of person who seems congenitally dysfunctional and incapable of living even a life of genteel and honorable poverty. One may pity such people as much as one wishes—for they really are pitiful—but one should not sentimentalize them. They may be unfortunate, unlucky, entirely blameless for what they have become. Their dysfunction may be cause by mental illness or some other congenital or acquired defect, such as injury to the fore brain or an innate chemical imbalance. Or it may be that these individuals (or at least some of them) are entirely or largely to blame for their sorry plight. Their dysfunction may be an expression of a narcissistic craving to avoid work, or an irresponsible preference for wiling away one’s time in a drunken stupor. Whatever the cause, the fact is that there will always exist some individuals who either can’t or won’t take care of themselves and who therefore cause problems for the rest of us. What is to be done about such people?

We know what Rand opposed in terms of “solutions” to this problem. She opposed any public financed welfare state or “safety net” that might take care of these people and get them off the streets. From Rand’s perspective, it is immoral to take money from the productive and give it to the unproductive. Very well. Then what is to be done? It simply will not do to say: “Leave them alone: let ‘reality’ or ‘nature’ take care of them.” Reality and nature won’t take care of them without first causing great inconvenience for the rest of us. I live in an area which attracts vagrants like a corpse attracts flies. These vagrants cause all kinds of problems for local businesses, from driving away customers through aggressive panhandling to defecating on the sidewalks and on the street.

An Objectivist might (and probably would) argue that these activities are (or ought to be) crimes and that the offenders should be arrested, convicted and punished. Yet, given the costs of convicting and then incarcerating vagrants, we would still find ourselves taking money from the productive to support the unproductive. Indeed, it would probably be cheaper to set up tents and a soup kitchen a few miles outside of town and try to draw the homeless hither. But how many Objectivists could bring themselves to accept such a solution, given their horror of anything that smacks of “welfare” or state assistance? In other words, they are not serious about the problem: they merely wish to repeat their various laissez-faire mantras and slogans. They do not wish to be bothered with the practical challenges that vagrancy poses to society. Instead, they bury these details under the vagueness and obscurity of their abstract doctrines.

Why should the idea of public assistance be so very dreadful to a reasonable person? Even from the point of view of the most callous self-interest, it is better to get the homeless off the street and into shelters, if only to keep them from spreading disease and being a nuisance to the rest of us. There is, after all, no cheaper solution to the problem, short of declaring open season on the poor wretches and exterminating them. Rand claims that the moral is the practical; but in this case, Objectivists have taken their moral principles to impractical conclusions.

24 comments:

Anon69 said...

"Yet, given the costs of convicting and then incarcerating vagrants, we would still find ourselves taking money from the productive to support the unproductive."

Objectivism doesn't support taking money through taxation. I think Rand had some voluntary schemes for funding government, and they wouldn't involve forcibly taking money from the productive.

Jim said...

Greg, you describe reality as we know it. While a soup kitchen outside of town is a rather novel idea, that is only a temporary solution to the problem. Eventually parasites die off, but how do we limit the recurrence of such parasites?

As we have discussed before, Thomas Jefferson's hope to help the "cream of society" fulfill their potential is a decent starting point. We must keep in mind that actions, especially those taken by government, tend to exhibit a feedback loop. (Eg. Welfare has devastated poorer urban communities by having the government replace the father figure and encouraging its recipients to do nothing. Thus one accepts welfare and shuns productivity, and the process repeats until entire communities become depraved.)

So let us accept your proposal concerning the soup kitchens, but let us also begin to create a more constructive education system. We currently put too much emphasis on grades and standardized testing. The effect has been to water down the material and align it with the demands of standardized tests.(A choice often made by out of touch administrators). Instead, let's demand more progress and create a system which does not compartmentalize knowledge (thank you SATs...).

At the moment, grades K-3 are doing well enough. The only change I might suggest is that elementary schools teach basic latin for the sake of increased vocabulary. Beyond that, the change must come around the 4th grade. There, teachers need to work to connect all subjects so that students can realize knowledge in terms of the whole. Curriculum should also rely heavily on reading and dialectic, venturing away from the textbook method so commonly employed in schools. Through the 8th grade, students should be continuously challenged to fulfill their intellectual potential. Those who show that they can perform would be sent to a more advanced high school while those that lacked interest could attend a high school which concentrated largely on technical skills.

With this system, students would graduate with skills and be well prepared either for college or the work force.

I am not proposing that this is a silver bullet, much can be spoken for in terms of spiritual education which is usually left to religious institutions, but the implementation of a plan of this sort would likely decrease poverty and increase production.

gregnyquist said...

"Objectivism doesn't support taking money through taxation. I think Rand had some voluntary schemes for funding government, and they wouldn't involve forcibly taking money from the productive."

Actually, Objectivists nowadays tend to be somewhat vague no this issue. Even Rand admitted that the "no taxation" ideal was not a practical option in the near time. Just as Marx claimed the state would magically wither away once full communism was achieved, so Rand seems to have thought that under "true" capitalism, there would be no need for taxation: that need would simply (we presume to guess) wither away.

The taxation notion demonstrates quite clearly the gap that exists between Rand's politics and the political reality of everyday life. And the notion of voluntary schemes for funding government seems particularly utopian given Rand's low opinion of charity, which for Rand, is merely a "minor" virtue. But if only a minor virtue, where is the incentive to give money to the government for essential services? Rand, per usual, ignores all the messy details that get in the way of the fulfillment of her ideology.

tenaj said...

In this recent post you are talking about breeders. The over population problem that capitalism (modern idea of it) requires to keep breeding consumers that can be manipulated. Small business capitalism doesn't require that. Atlas sold by word of mouth. Now ARI promotes it in all sorts of ways as LP lives on those royalties and plays his games with that money.

Most authors go on talk shows to promote their latest book. Sell it. Increase sales. And then there are those book authors who do nothing of the kind. They know their writing has little appeal for the masses so they aren't asked and so don't come into our living rooms.

Now we have a flood of mediocre books sold on TV. Oprah is one of the most influential seller of books. ( I sell used books on the internet.) I feel fortunate that she has had such good taste in the ones she pushes.

Back to your post. We need to stop ooohing and ahhhing every time a celebrity gets pregnant and start referring to them as breeders. It has a pejorative ring to it and might serve to curtail this baby bubble we are going through that sets an example for the masses. If they can't do anything else, they can fuck and breed. And that's what they are doing.

No responsibility at all. And of course abortion doctors are shot at their clinics.

tenaj said...

In 1951, future Nobel Prize winner Czeslaw Milosz sought political asylum from his native Poland in Paris. Once in France, he immediately began work on THE CAPTIVE MIND, his seminal account of intellectual life under the political repression of the Iron Curtain. Milosz examines the inherent dangers of submitting to a regime whose dictates are purely predicated on philosophy, which he demonstrates must inevitably disintegrate due to the theoretical and, thus, ethereal nature of its foundation. According to Milosz, the intellectual hierarchy of an oppressed society is far less likely to resist the rulers than the impoverished, whose starved and subjugated bodies will inevitably react with greater immediacy than the rationalizing minds of the scholars and academics. He specifically considers the cases of four "anonymous" Polish writers (later identified as Jerzy Andrzejewski, Tadeusz Borowski, Jerzy Putrament, and Konstanty Ildefons Galczynski) who were seduced in various ways by the rule of the Communists. As one of the most cogent examinations of how intellectual and political conformity fuels a repressed society, THE CAPTIVE MIND stands as an essential text of the twentieth century.

Here's a good link for The Captive Mind and there is one for 75 cents. Somebody get it.

http://product.half.ebay.com/The-Captive-Mind_W0QQtgZinfoQQprZ4984791

Mark Plus said...

Rand did publish a fantasy about exterminating America's lumpen-humans through the withdrawal of their life-support in Atlas Shrugged. She intended to show that her Malthusian die-off would make room in the country for the kinds of people she thought knew how to live properly.

She had plenty of company in fantasizing about such drastic solutions. The problem of how to prune back "the people of the abyss," as H.G. Wells called them, so that the better quality people could actualize themselves without their inferiors burdening them, shows up repeatedly in early 20th Century social theorizing. American, British and European intellectuals proposed using eugenics, sterilization and painless forms of killing like gas chambers to improve the breed decades before these ideas became official policy in Nazi Germany. Indeed, the Germans' willingness to take these ideas out the salon and into the real world, with such morally objectionable results, must have embarrassed these intellectuals to no end.

aarons said...

Might I just mention that the categorization of 'aristocracy' and 'chandela' is, um, a little silly? Even in the context of productive participation in an economy (which I believe is your intent), any valuation of a person is subjective.

tenaj mentions Czeslaw Milosz - someone the Polish communist authorities might have considered a parasite.

We are also failing to account for change over time. A person who needs social support today might provide support in the future. Think 'baby.' Or the reverse - think 'grandma.'

Social safety nets, whether of government, family, or mosque exist because we are interdependent. We all require support from others from time to time.

To conclude, John Adams was a dork. Ayn Rand was often wrong. And can someone here help me jump start my car?

gregnyquist said...

Jim, my notion of the "soup kitchens" is not meant as a serious proposal, but only as way of illustrating Rand's blindness on this issue. I don't know specifically what should be done about the chronically dysfuctional in our society; my point was merely that it may be more economical to at least provide some relief than it would be simply to do nothing at all, as Rand advised.

I like your ideas about education, but when you write "let us ... begin to create a more constructive education system," who is the "we" that you speak of? You and I are not going to be able to construct this education system, since we're both politically impotent and cannot carry out our intentions in practice. So who's going to do this constructing? Those who have the largest say in such matters (teacher unions, legislators, school adminstrators, activist parents) are largely opposed to such notions. So how is this excellent system to be implemented?

gregnyquist said...

Aarons: "Might I just mention that the categorization of 'aristocracy' and 'chandela' is, um, a little silly? "

Sure you might say this. But I'm still unclear as to precisely what you are objecting to. "Aristocracy" and "chandela" are just harmless words, symbols representing an outlining reality. It is this reality that's important, not the words used to express it. Are you objecting to the fact that there is an order of rank among individuals? And here I don't mean in a general way, as if to say that Peter is "in general" superior to Paul or that Peter has more "intrinsic" worth as a human being. No, it's very specific. In any field of endeavor, there are people who excel over others. There is an "aristocracy" of athletes, an "aristocracy" of soldiers, an "aristocracy" of statesmen, an "aristocracy" of whores, an "aristocracy" of thieves, etc. There is even (despite all the denials to the contrary among sentimentalists) a "moral" aristocracy or order of rank. Cold blooded murderers are, from an ethical point of view, morally inferior to the rest of us. (And if such a valuation is "silly" because subjective, then the condemnation of murder is also "silly," because all moral evaluations would then be "subjective" in the disparaging sense of the word).

"We are also failing to account for change over time. A person who needs social support today might provide support in the future. Think 'baby.' Or the reverse - think 'grandma.'"

But that's not the issue at stake here. I was talking about people who either will always be like a baby requiring care from others or who decide to become perpetual babies (i.e., malingerers) because they don't want to work. Let's not kid ourselves: there are such people, and talking about "interdepedence" doesn't touch reality in their case. For there are degress of interdependence, from near independence on one side of the scale to total dependence on the other side; and while one may sympathize with those who entirely dependent (even if they are malingerers) and wish to help them (even when they are beyond help), I don't see anything wrong with also sympathizing for those on the other side of the scale who are constantly expected to foot the bill. Rand may have gone to extremes in her defense of indepedence; but one of the reasons people are drawn to her is because, despite all the exaggerations, her philosophy does, in places, touch real issues that many people in this society are uncomfortable facing. It's unfortunate that Rand's analysis of these issues often spreads more heat than light. But we should not let the heat distract us from the light.

Wells said...

If I recall, the grounds of the aristocracy that most countries have is Money and Connections.

With Talent providing a subordinate role at most, and Virtue perhaps even being an impediment.

Xtra Laj said...

If I recall, the grounds of the aristocracy that most countries have is Money and Connections.

With Talent providing a subordinate role at most, and Virtue perhaps even being an impediment.


I've heard this argument often (though your presentation of it is so tacit that it might not be the argument I'm thinking of), and honestly, and with all due disrespect, it shows an inability to separate the integral from the trivial. When people say things like "Bill Gates is rich because he is lucky, not because he is intelligent", even if this is not quite true in the case of Gates, the point is that the wealthy, on the whole, are far more talented than the poor, on the whole. It is when we have to explain the reasons why people who are somewhat similarly talented have disparate results that we can resort more quixotically to claims like "money and connections" are more important. It's hard to be a good leader without some measure of talent, and getting money and connections itself a talent of sorts.

Jim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim said...

"I like your ideas about education, but when you write "let us ... begin to create a more constructive education system," who is the "we" that you speak of? You and I are not going to be able to construct this education system, since we're both politically impotent and cannot carry out our intentions in practice. So who's going to do this constructing? Those who have the largest say in such matters (teacher unions, legislators, school adminstrators, activist parents) are largely opposed to such notions. So how is this excellent system to be implemented?"

You are keen to see that it is not so clean cut. When I speak of we, I am speaking of you and me and anyone else who has the clarity of mind to see the disaster before us. Change will take time but it is possible. What is necessary is a sort of revolt against the status quo. I will provide one clear example of this sort. Small groups of independent minded high school teachers can begin to nurture the top 20% of students in the school system. These teacher could come together and develop an academic plan which incorporates the most prominent AP classes and provide curriculum which exemplify the interconnectivity of those classes. They would then be in a position to challenge these more advanced students with work that demands a comprehensive frame work which connects the various subjects. A plan like this will not be easy and will take a lot of cooperation between highly gifted and educated teachers, but I hope to work toward something of this sort by the end of the next decade.

Of course this isn't the dream I describe in laying out a plan for differentiated education at the high school level, but it is the first step toward such a system.

...And sorry for misinterpreting your soup kitchen plan. Joke or not, I still like it. The only thing that is missing is structure which might provide for productivity - granted voluntary in nature - from those who use these kitchens. For we all know what idleness leads to...

HerbSewell said...

"These vagrants cause all kinds of problems for local businesses, from driving away customers through aggressive panhandling to defecating on the sidewalks and on the street."

These are violations of property rights.

"Even from the point of view of the most callous self-interest, it is better to get the homeless off the street and into shelters, if only to keep them from spreading disease and being a nuisance to the rest of us."

Then private charity can be set up and people, (acting within their self-interest), may willingly give up their own money to house these displaced people. There is no contradiction.

"An Objectivist might (and probably would) argue that these activities are (or ought to be) crimes and that the offenders should be arrested, convicted and punished. Yet, given the costs of convicting and then incarcerating vagrants, we would still find ourselves taking money from the productive to support the unproductive.

This is an equivocation of the Objectivist condemnation of taxation, (a forced expropriation of money from citizens by the government), and the Objectivist moral sanction and necessity of a government which voluntarily accepts appropriates resources for the protection of individual rights. This is an example of the logical fallacy of the false dilemma.

"but in this case, Objectivists have taken their moral principles to impractical conclusions."

No, they haven't.

Logical fallacies committed in this post: Equivocation, Black-or-White Fallacy.

Daniel Barnes said...

Herb:
>Then private charity can be set up and people, (acting within their self-interest), may willingly give up their own money to house these displaced people.

Um, as helping strangers is immoral according to Objectivism, why would Objectivists in the future Objecto-world do this?

And not only would helping them be immoral, but it also would be expensive. Surely it would be easier and cheaper just to shoot them, as they would have no doubt have initiated force by aggressively panhandling or against property rights by shitting on the newly privatised footpath. And as there are only black-and-whites and no greys in Objectivism, and you only deal in absolutes, such an absolute response would surely be an example of moral rectitude - of a true human against subhumans.

Michael Prescott said...

"as helping strangers is immoral according to Objectivism"

I don't think Objectivism views private charity as immoral. Rand's position, I believe, is that charity is not an obligation or a significant virtue. I don't think she held it to be a vice, however.

She did say that one should not risk one's life for a stranger, but this is different from simply helping people.

In her own life, she reportedly gave occasional charitable help to friends and relatives, and she accepted some charity in her early years (e.g., from her Chicago relatives and from the boardinghouse where she lived in L.A.).

I agree, however, that private charity would not be sufficient to deal with the social problems of modern urban life. Strenuous efforts at private charity were made in the Victorian era, but the living conditions of the poor remained unspeakably awful.

Daniel Barnes said...

MP:
>She did say that one should not risk one's life for a stranger, but this is different from simply helping people.

But the "grey" is always evil, and thus immoral! So when Rand says that helping people somehow morally neutral, (and she even sometimes falls back on a common-humanity-type riff, despite the fact that this was the issue in the first place!), between the white of selfishness and the black of altruism, she doesn't seem to understand that her ideas have consequences...;-)

In other words, Rand is simply hedging with this sort of talk.

But even if we grant that it is merely morally neutral, the question remains as to why would anyone do that, rather than act in a virtuous way?

tenaj said...

I can only speak of education here. But trying to change the public school system is a waste of energy. Better to set up a small learning center as some far right Xntians do and sort of homeschool.

I have done this and here is one of my ex students. Sumi Tonooka http://www.sumitonooka.com/ and I swear she looks just as she did when she was 13 and her mother sent her to my aprtment. She wouldn't do anything. No art museum, no library, nada. You see I believe in free education which is an oxy moron I know. But children need to be free to choose what they are interested in and what they are motivated to study. Sumi would do only one thing all day. Listen to my records. I was ready to do I don't know what.

I was at a dinner party with a musician who was a former prodigy and was aiming for the Guiness Book by playing live all the Goldberg Variations non stop. He did it. I told him about Sumi who was disappointed in her music teacher at Settlement House (a kind of charity) and he said he would take her on. He did and weeks later he told me she was playing the Goldberg Variations. The rest is history.

I got all this freedom in education from Montessori, Neill (Summerhill)and George Boardman who taught the summer of 1964 at The Freedom School in Colorado run by Bob LeFevre.

And it is impossible to do it if you are not 150% committed to waiting for them to choose (but lots of stimuli, trips, books,materials all around and an intelligent teacher)

Sumi later told her mother that that time was when she felt she had the time to dream and decide her future.

I also taught in a free school that was one in name only, and they wanted to run me out of town on a broom, tar and feather me. But since the 2nd and 3rd graders had disposed of 2 teachers before October was over,they had no choice but to keep me. But you must be prepared for the aggression that is let loose. As Neill says it will equal the amount of repression they endured before being set free to choose. It was the single most enlightening year of my life. Rand's philosophy helped but didn't go far enough.

No public school will allow this. The public schools are interested in obedience, not learning and creativity and accomplishment.

gregnyquist said...

HerbSewell: "Then private charity can be set up and people, (acting within their self-interest), may willingly give up their own money to house these displaced people. There is no contradiction."

It's not an issue of contradiction, it's whether charity will in all cases deal with the problem. This is a "social" problem to the extent that it affects many people in society. But you are expecting people voluntarily to take care of it. What if they don't? Then what? You can't assume, a priori, that charity will always be able to deal with such an issue. Where charity fails, the state (i.e., the police and the legal system) will have to take care of the problem, one way or another. Such is the reality of the situation, for those who are tethered to reality (rather than mere ideology).

"This is an equivocation of the Objectivist condemnation of taxation."

There's no equivocation. It's an issue dealing with matters of fact. Can the government be supported solely through private donations and charging money for certain services? Anyone who thinks so does not have a head for understanding human nature and the human condition. The problem here is that the Objectivist position is unrealistic, especially when one factors in Rand's position on charity (a "minor" virtue). So Rand expects the government to get by largely with voluntary donations while at the same time insisting that people who donate should only be regarded as exercising a "minor" virtue.

"No, they haven't." [i.e., Objectivists haven't taken their moral principles to impractical conclusions.]

Unfortunately Herb, you haven't proven this. You have simply asserted (wrongly) that there are "fallacies" or contradictions in my analysis. But you haven't dealt with the main point of issue (do you even understand what the main point at issue is?)—i.e., whether it would be less expensive just to provide some minimal relief to the chronic dysfunctional than to have the justice system deal with them.

"These are violations of property rights."

Panhandling is a violation of property rights? What property rights are being violated?

gregnyquist said...

tenaj: "I can only speak of education here. But trying to change the public school system is a waste of energy. Better to set up a small learning center as some far right Xntians do and sort of homeschool."

I'm inclined to agree with this. Public schools have become the private preserve of the worst sort of special interests, from teacher's unions to leftists trying to use education to (per impossible) remake human nature.

"But children need to be free to choose what they are interested in and what they are motivated to study."

Well, maybe. More research needs to be done in this area. Such research as I have seen in relation to Montessori schools involves merely comparisons with public schools. But since public schools are so bad, that is not a very enlightening comparison: almost any form of education would be preferable to what is found in American public schools.

Incidentally, while Rand favored the Montessori method, Peikoff, for reasons not easily comprehended, prefers something closer to the "great books" or classical models of education favored by Matthew Arnold, Robert Hutchins, Albert J. Nock, and Allan Bloom (among others). Although I am rather symphathetic to the this form of education, I think Peikoff's advocacy is a mistake from his point of view, that is, from the point of view of Objectivism, since an education in the "best that has been thought and said" will, over time, incline any student who can benefit from such instruction against orthodox Objectivism.

HerbSewell said...

"But you are expecting people voluntarily to take care of it. What if they don't?"

Of course, this is an improbable scenario. The evidence of the thousands of soup kitchens and privately run shelters throughout the nation are evidence that people will take care of those who cannot attend to themselves.

"You can't assume, a priori, that charity will always be able to deal with such an issue."
That is not my position. I said it COULD deal with such an issue. In the unlikelihood that no one cares for them, they will die off. You won't be seeing them on any private property.

"Where charity fails, the state (i.e., the police and the legal system) will have to take care of the problem, one way or another."

Correct. The fact that this would be costly does not justify the right of the government to expropriate money from peoples.

"It's an issue dealing with matters of fact. Can the government be supported solely through private donations and charging money for certain services? Anyone who thinks so does not have a head for understanding human nature and the human condition."

And here we have an argument from intimidation. I would say the same anyone to declare the contrary does not have a head for understanding human nature and the human condition. I disagree with you, but this is not the matter at hand.

"The problem here is that the Objectivist position is unrealistic-"

Based on what reasoning? Blank out.

"So Rand expects the government to get by largely with voluntary donations while at the same time insisting that people who donate should only be regarded as exercising a "minor" virtue.

We see another equivocation, whereby donating qua charity is confounded for donating qua funding services to protect individual rights.

"But you haven't dealt with the main point of issue (do you even understand what the main point at issue is?)—i.e., whether it would be less expensive just to provide some minimal relief to the chronic dysfunctional than to have the justice system deal with them."

That is not the issue. The issue here is whether the 'fact' that if it would be more costly to forcefully deal with the homeless problem then to set up a welfare system, (a fact I don't necessarily agree with), justifies forcefully expropriating the money from peoples to fund it. That welfare-state governments forcefully expropriate their money from peoples is the contending moral issue Objectivism has with them, not exactly what is done with the money, (except for uninitiated wars and propaganda). If a volitionally funded government finds it more economic to set a severely limited welfare-system, and the problem is dispensing with them, there is no moral reason the government should not proceed with this plan.

"Panhandling is a violation of property rights? What property rights are being violated?"

The right to set at what terms people must agree to in order to be on another man's property. Because under a proper laissez-faire capitalist system, all property is privately owned, owners of all property would have the right to set, at their discretion, what actions can and cannot be taken by people who are on their property. The vast majority of people would not want the act of panhandling to occur on their property, so said panhandling would be a violation of property rights.

Xtra Laj said...

As someone who was once a public school teacher, I can state without any reservations that while there is blame to go all round, the problems with public schools with regard to student development are often overstated and the problems with student quality are often understated.

The main reason why private schools tend to do so well revolve around student selectivity - public schools accept everyone, while private schools can kick underperformers or nonperformers out.

Jim said...

"I'm inclined to agree with this. Public schools have become the private preserve of the worst sort of special interests, from teacher's unions to leftists trying to use education to (per impossible) remake human nature."

While this is true, we must accept the fact that, in general, the masses receive their education from public schools (myself included). If the schools shirk their duty to humanity and instead embrace the domination political, corporate, and union interests, then change must come from the grass roots. I have met enough frustrated, freedom-loving intellectuals, who quest for truth above all else, to believe that we can begin to transform the school system. I do not know what the end result will be, but I do know that to teach (and in some instances preach) enlightenment and auto-determination is the task which life has placed before me. As the Bhagavad Gita proclaims, doing what I know in my heart to be right, I shall "act without attachment to fruit." Like Arjuna, I shall fight the battle before me with the army and tools which are already at hand in order that justice prevail.

proudfootz said...

A book that would be enlightening on this topic would be "Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare" by Frances Fox Pivens and Richard A Clowder. One thesis is that welfare benefits society by reducing social unrest and regulating labor.

Western society is shown to have always included a heavy dose of moralism into what is essentially an economic problem. The poor are always blamed for their predicament.

Poverty is a social problem and as such has social causes. The current economic meltdown should stand in evidence of that. The brave entrepreneurs and the brilliant economists who have brought us to this present pass will not be paying the price.

Tens of thousands of ordinary Americans are losing their jobs, losing their homes, their health, their families, etc through no fault of their own.

When one finds oneself without employment, a place to sleep, decent food, or even a place to relieve oneself perhaps they will find more sympathy with those who do not choose to go to some convenient place to die of starvation and exposure out of sight.